Syria’s ‘secret prisons’ used for executions

Image copyright AFP Image caption Opposition activists say the prisoners were accused of setting a forest ablaze. Syria has executed 24 prisoners accused of lighting fires that had started in government-held areas of the…

Syria's 'secret prisons' used for executions

Image copyright AFP Image caption Opposition activists say the prisoners were accused of setting a forest ablaze.

Syria has executed 24 prisoners accused of lighting fires that had started in government-held areas of the country, Amnesty International says.

It says the killings were carried out on Saturday in an apparent “purge” of people who had “violated” their nationality rules.

However, a Syrian judicial source told AFP news agency that people were being put to death for joining terrorist groups.

The fire ignited by a group of people had forced the evacuation of around 10,000 people and destroyed around 3,000 homes, activists have said.

Defence attorney Mohammad Mu’aji told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that more than 200 people had been accused of lighting the fires.

“They were put to death yesterday without any legal procedure,” he added.

“The detainees did not have access to lawyers. Their mothers and relatives were told to leave the area.”

Some 14,000 people, including 10,000 women and children, fled the fire and travelled in convoys to government-held areas, according to local human rights groups.

Before the execution of the prisoners, prominent activist Raed al-Abed said on Sunday that the “accused civilians” were told by the army to extinguish the fires in order to claim Syrian nationality.

Image copyright AFP Image caption A military council source has denied there was a purge of foreign nationality seekers

“According to the various cases we have received, Syrian civilians are being put to death for not fulfilling the requirements to become a citizen,” Mr Mujahid said.

Amnesty International’s Middle East director Claudio Cordone said: “These executions are totally unacceptable and show how Syria continues to summarily execute hundreds of detainees despite International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda expressing serious concerns over the security situation in Syria.”

The United Nations has warned the killings will most likely create fresh humanitarian problems.

On Monday, the governor of the Syrian region in the war-torn country told AFP news agency that members of the Popular Committees, an armed group that is part of the Syrian army, were involved in the fires.

Some of the fires that started earlier this month could be seen from the International Committee of the Red Cross headquarters, based in Geneva, Switzerland.

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